I have already written about my paternal grandmother, Ida, and the influence she has had on my cooking, but I haven’t yet spoken of my maternal grandmother, Franny (or, Nan, as we all called her). It is difficult to talk about, or even think about, one without the other. You see, my grandmothers were best friends throughout most of their lives. That is how my parents met – through my grandmothers. Of course, this “set up” had the potential to be disastrous but, in this case, it worked. In fact, everything about their unlikely friendship seemed to work.
If anyone has ever doubted the fact that opposites attract, they need only look as far as these two women to become convinced of it. Grandma Ida and Nan couldn’t have been more different, physically and in every other way. One is short and plump and the other was tall and slim. One wears housedresses nearly every day and the other loved gold lame΄. One is a homebody who enjoys playing cards and knitting, and the other attended just about every event at just about every senior citizens center in the New York metropolitan area. One is a fabulous cook and the other was... not.
When it came to cooking, Nan got an A for effort (perhaps because she loved a party, she did attempt to cook and entertain) and an A+ for generosity (she’d give away her last morsel of food to anyone who needed or wanted it - most people accepted only if they needed it). She was an incredible woman with many talents, but cooking simply wasn’t one of them. No matter what she made or how hard she worked, her food always seemed to be...well, barely edible. Her meals were memorable, and they certainly did inspire conversation – I can remember my parents spending the entire drive home, after a holiday dinner, debating over what meat we had eaten – but there aren’t any recipes of Nan’s that I will be sharing on the blog. Except this one.
As seems logical, Nan arrived at this recipe for Candied Peas quite by accident. She put a pan of peas and onions in the oven and forgot about it. After about 45 minutes, she pulled it out of the oven to find that the peas and onions had browned up and become incredibly sweet. It was a huge hit and many of us have continued to prepare peas this way. My mother often roasts a whole chicken on top of the peas and onions, and the drippings give them a warm, rich flavor. I like the addition of mint to freshen them up. Even Grandma Ida makes Nan’s Candied Peas. Who would have guessed it? But, then, they were always surprising people. Nothing, and yet, everything about their friendship made sense.
1 bag frozen peas
1 large onion, diced
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup mint leaves, sliced into ribbons
½ tsp. salt and fresh ground pepper (about 8-10 grinds of the peppermill)
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Add the olive oil to the pan and then lay the frozen peas and onions on top of it. Toss them around a bit to make sure that the peas and onions are well-coated with the oil. Add salt and pepper and bake for 45 minutes. When the pan comes out of the oven, toss the mint into the pan and stir it all together.